Book: Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Director: Anthony Williams
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Pinker than a tart’s boudoir, more glitter and heels than Strictly, Legally Blonde the Musical is often cast into that horrendous category of a ‘guilty pleasure’. In truth, it’s so much more. Returning for a UK tour following success in Broadway and the West end, it’s time to paint the town pink (red is so last decade).
At first, our ‘genetic lotto’ winner Elle Woods seeks the rich halls of Harvard. Not for the greater good, nor out of economic desire. Instead, it’s all for love. Seeking to win back Warner Huntington III, Elle studies and enrols in the Ivy league. Despite some setbacks: envy, pettiness and sordid professors, she quickly demonstrates intellect, heart and superior fashion sense. Learning, that whilst we shouldn’t give up on our dreams, we shouldn’t ignore the branching paths along the way.
Taking on the mantle of Elle Woods is certainly no easy task. Reece Witherspoon’s original take in the 2001 film is iconic. Further, the later West end triumph helped launched the stage career for the now cherished Sheridan Smith. Though her choreography leaves much to be desired, Lucie Jones fits the part quite strikingly in her first leading role. Jones, who valiantly grasped the mic for us at Eurovision this year, is an accomplished vocalist. Though of course, a marvellous voice means little in a musical production if one cannot convey emotion. Jones, however, having transitioned to the stage a few years ago, is incredibly endearing as Elle. More so than Witherspoon, she carries heart, her comedy ticks all the boxes, and is fully able to convey heartache.
Adapting a successful film into a musical, whilst clearly, a marketable idea isn’t always easy. Legally Blonde, however, with its simple themes of female empowerment is still a huge success. Changed from the film, adapted more from the book based on Amanda Brown’s real experiences, the score really sets it apart. It can be syrupy sweet, bombastically fierce, but certain numbers such as Ireland, balance comedy with genuine emotion. One was not expecting a river dance during Legally Blonde, yet it somehow fits.
The choreography lacks a little in parts. It feels stilted, and as previously stated Jones is a phenomenal singer, but no dancer. With that said, the second Act’s opening number Whipped Into Shape delivers not just a highlight in the score, but the finest movement of the night mainly down to Helen Petrovna as fitness queen Brooke Wyndham.
The greatest whoops and cheers this evening are for the four-legged cast. Rufus, who, on this leg of the journey is being played by Bulldog Bertie, draws the audience’s smiles. In reverse, Bill Ward’s disgustingly slick Professor Callahan, commanding in his stage presence gets all the Panto boos. The highest accolade for any antagonist. Standing apart though is Rita Simons as Paulette. Everything just works with Paulette, the vocals, the writing and especially the humour.
Legally Blonde the Musical rather like Elle herself is rarely taken seriously. It’s light-hearted, has touching moments but isn’t in the league of other musicals. When it has a talented cast, however, it’s undoubtedly a hyperactive splurge of glitz, sugar and one or two emotional segments. So, take it for what it is, fun. Heaps of enjoyment to be had in a musical that never takes itself too seriously.
Runs until 2 December 2017 | Image: Contributed